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Stories from the Field

California Casualty Awardees Barb VanDoorn: College Readiness

Great educators have great stories. This series gives a glimpse of the ideas, practices, and experiences of the recipients of the NEA Foundation’s California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Today, we’re sharing the words of Barb VanDoorn, a counselor at Lake Holcombe School District in Holcombe, Wisconsin.

The students in small rural districts are independent, hard-working, but their view of the world is small. For my students to succeed, I need to broaden that view.

At Lake Holcombe, 60% of the students live below the poverty line. 80% of family members have no school experience beyond high school. These first-generation students need background and support to guide them through the college process – whether it’s a four-year college or technical college.

I arrange for every junior to go on at least one college visit. This type of experience is vital – while most in our school know how to gut a deer, they wouldn’t have a clue how to order at Starbucks. Their social experiences outside Holcombe are limited. Addressing these barriers is just as important as making sure they know calculus.

Student support doesn’t end when they graduate. I send all graduates attending college a care package during their first semester. In that critical transition period, it is important for them to know they still have my support. The message – you can do this!

Meet more of the 2018 NEA Foundation awardees here. We’ll celebrate them at the 2018 Salute to Excellence in Education gala in February. Hope to see you there!

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